Dotfile madness

Dotfile madness” is an excellent look at the problem of hidden data and configuration files that seem to be multiplying lately in the users’ home directories:

We are no longer in control of our home directories.
My own home directory contains 25 ordinary files and 144 hidden files. The dotfiles contain data that doesn’t belong to me: it belongs to the programmers whose programs decided to hijack the primary location designed as a storage for my personal files. I can’t place those dotfiles anywhere else and they will appear again if I try to delete them. All I can do is sit here knowing that in the darkness, behind the scenes, they are there. Waiting in silence. Some of those programmers decided to additionally place some normal files and directories in the same place. Those are clearly visible every time I execute ls in my home directory. 

While there is no easy centralized solution to this problem, as each application’s developer decides for himself, the article proposes a better way of doing things, reminding us about the XDG Base Directory Specification. This spec allows for a much finer control of where things go via the XDG_* environment variables.

Nice one!

ULID – Universally Unique Lexicographically Sortable Identifier

If you thought that UUID was the end of universally unique identifiers, think again. Here’s the ULID spec, with the following improvements:

  • 128-bit compatibility with UUID
  • 1.21e+24 unique ULIDs per millisecond
  • Lexicographically sortable!
  • Canonically encoded as a 26 character string, as opposed to the 36 character UUID
  • Uses Crockford’s base32 for better efficiency and readability (5 bits per character)
  • Case insensitive
  • No special characters (URL safe)
  • Monotonic sort order (correctly detects and handles the same millisecond)

Here’s how it looks:


And there’s a wide selection of libraries implementing ULID for all major programming languages.

ISO-8601, YYYY, yyyy, and why your year may be wrong

Erica Sadun blog post goes into details of the difference between ‘YYYY’ and ‘yyyy’ when formatting dates. Remember to add a few unit tests to your application to make sure you are using the correct format.

We’ve recently seen this issue at work and it was a pain in the butt to troubleshoot.

Picking the right API Paradigm

There are not many people who I trust on the subject of API design like I do Phil Sturgeon. He has been a prominent speaker both online and at numerous conferences, covering a variety of problems, solutions, and approaches in the API design domain.

In one of his recent blog posts, he shared a diagram (see above) which provides a clear illustration on which API paradigm – REST, GraphQL, or RPC – one should pick for a web application, based on a variety of criteria.

I think this is probably the simplest of all the explanations I’ve seen around.

Well-Known URIs

Back when Let’s Encrypt started giving out free SSL certificates, one bit that visible all over the web was the “well-known” directory.  I never thought much about it – it’s just a name after all.

Turns out, there is actually an RFC 5785 that defines a standard for the well-known uniform resource identifiers (URIs).  And that’s a lot more generic than just the bit that Let’s Encrypt needs.

Accidentally stumbled upon this while reading “A Well-Known URL for Changing Passwords” draft.